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June 02, 2004

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Publication Date: Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Cooking with class: Laurel School PTA publishes a collection of recipes from teachers, kids, staff and parents Cooking with class: Laurel School PTA publishes a collection of recipes from teachers, kids, staff and parents (June 02, 2004)

Marjorie Mader and Jane Knoerle
Almanac Staff Writers

With today's hectic pace, it's refreshing to see a group of young mothers take the time and interest to create "What's Cooking," a collection of recipes from the Laurel School community.

Community cookbooks are something we don't see much of in our trendy communities, although they thrive in other parts of the country. Better Homes & Gardens even puts out a publication called Hometown Cooking with recipes from community cookbooks.

"Hometown Cooking" is where you'll find recipes for chicken chow mein casserole from St. Peter's Episcopal Church in St. Louis or Buffalo chicken wings from the Junior League of Buffalo. In recent years, the only cookbook Almanac staffers recall being put out by a local public school is the 1994 "Good Food" from the families and friends of Woodside High School.

How did the busy moms of Atherton's Laurel School PTA decide to publish a cookbook? Teachers were always asking for the recipes for food that parents prepared for teacher-staff appreciation events, luncheons, birthdays and potlucks at the K-2 school, according to cookbook chairman Jill Robertson.

Appreciation luncheons, held three times a year, are always potluck. The last social event of the Laurel school year will be a picnic held Wednesday, June 2. "A lot of parents are involved in school activities. We never have a problem (with participation) here," says Ms. Robertson.

Cookbook browsers will find recipes collected from children, parents, grandparents, teachers, and staff. Laurel custodian Carl Jones shares his recipes for buttermilk biscuits and red beans and rice, but not his recipe for "finger lickin' ribs." His rib dinner was auctioned twice for $7,500 at the recent Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation Auction.

Students' drawings introduce the 11 sections, starting with "Staff Favorites" and ending with "Kids Can Cook Too."

"You can almost gain weight by reading the dessert section," says Ms. Robertson. The tempting treats include A+ cookies, chocolate mint brownies, Kahlua decadence cake, pumpkin cheesecake, Dutch strawberry pie and simple English toffee.

Some of the recipes are classroom favorites. Kindergartners friendship fruit salad serves a whole class. First-grade teacher Kristen Garcia offers her recipe for a snack for the 100th day of school and another for stone soup, based on a beloved story of that name.

The eight-member cookbook committee started work in October and the book was published in May, just in time for Mother's Day.

Jeanne Simonian of J Design did the cookbook design and layout. Alison Lemons, a chef, contributed her expertise. Amy Lagueux, sales director for the Pampered Chef, added her know-how, and Dawn Bercow handled the marketing. Kathleen Balestra researched the school's history. Paula Hughes handled the children's art contest, and Rachel Tasch worked on marketing and book productions.

"What's Cooking" includes a short history of the school. Founded in September 1955, Laurel was first housed in an old Army hospital on Laurel Street in Menlo Park, across from Burgess Park.

Many of its first students were children of graduate students living in adjacent Stanford Village. With enrollment growing as much as 30 percent a year, the school board decided to buy land to build a new school. A 10-room school, designed by architect Kingsford Jones, was completed in 1960 on a 6.9-acre parcel at the corner of Edge and Ringwood in Atherton. Today the school is home to almost 400 students in kindergarten through second grade.

Although "What's Cooking" was published by modern-day moms in the food-obsessed Bay Area, along with recipes for California or fusion cuisine are old-time stand-bys that use such things as a can of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup.

A segment on family traditions underscores what a multicultural society we are. Affaf Heatley offers ali baba couscous. Greg Scott contributes African chicken stew. Rachel Tasch lists Chanukah latkes, while Kathleen Tatola contributes Grandma Wallwork's potato salad.

"What's Cooking" was published by Morris Press Cookbooks in Nebraska, which specializes in publishing cookbooks for organizations, or as keepsakes. Color sections in the back of the book include cooking tips, microwave hints, measurements and substitutions, and a glossary of cooking terms.

The cookbook is available for $12 a copy through Laurel School, 95 Edge Road, in Atherton, and also at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park. Proceeds go toward supporting teachers and staff with school supplies and for the educational program. Dawn Bercow reports 325 books of the 500-copy printing have already been sold, with another 55 earmarked for teachers and staff. For more information, contact Ms. Bercow at, or call 328-3296.

The following are recipes from "What's Cooking."

African chicken stew

Greg Scott

2 chicken breasts
3 medium potatoes
2 to 4 carrots
1/2 onion
4 cloves garlic
2 to 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
5 to 6 cups water
2 to 3 tablespoons peanut butter
8-oz. can tomato paste
3 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 cups white rice

Boil chicken until meat separates from bone. Cut meat into pieces. Use resulting broth to cook rice. Peel and chop carrots and onions. Dice onion and chop garlic, then saute in large stew pot. Add chicken, potatoes and carrots, plus water, bring to a boil, adding salt and black pepper. Add peanut butter and tomato paste, gently stirring to dilute, then sprinkle with cayenne and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes. When it reaches a curry-like consistency, serve stew over rice.

Dutch strawberry pie

Lezlie Glare, librarian

3 egg whites
1 cup sugar
23 Ritz crackers, crushed
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup whipped cream
1 quart sliced strawberries

Beat egg whites until stiff. Add sugar and continue beating until well mixed. Fold in crackers, nuts and vanilla. Bake in well-greased pie pan 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Let cool at least one hour. Whip cream until stiff. Fold in berries. Pour into cold pie crust. Refrigerate two hours before serving. Serves six to eight.

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